Open Your Eyes (1997)

“Do you believe in God?”

‘Open Your Eyes’, directed by Alejandro Amenábar in 1997, is a Spanish fantasy thriller that was later remade in America by Cameron Crowe as ‘Vanilla Sky’. It’s a puzzle box movie. A wealthy playboy, César, played by Eduardo Noriega falls in love with Sofía, the girlfriend of his best friend, played by Penélope Cruz. Before the new relationship can develop, however, César is involved in a car crash and is facially disfigured. Despite an expensive course of plastic therapy he is forced to resort to a mask and his life falls apart. Gradually, however, the lines between dream and reality blur and César begins to suspect that the world he is living in might not be all it seems, and the fantasies seem to all involve a cryogenics company called Life Extension. It’s the type of movie that Christopher Nolan would later become notorious for, but is also part of the same millennial-anxiety genre as David Fincher’s ‘The Game’ and The Wachowskis’ 1999 science fiction movie ‘The Matrix’. In these film, the boundaries between reality and mediated fantasy, a fantasy that is shaped by stories, are paper thin, and each asks a question about which is better: the Edenic dreamworld, or the potentially painful world outside. It’s a dense film, much like Amenábar’s earlier ‘Tesis’, somewhat hyperbolic in its performances and visual effects. In stylistic terms it’s brash, colourful and melodramatic, but the ideas, and the consistency with which Amenábar unrolls them are what stand out. The film is full of striking, post-apocalyptic imagery (deserted cities and crowds of people behaving oddly), but unlike many movies of that genre, here the apocalypse is taking place inside one man’s head, and is an entirely personal one.

Would I recommend it? Yes – watching with ‘Tesis’ gives a more complete view of Amenábar’s postmodern issues with reality, a theme that is continued in his following film, the period ghost story ‘The Others’.

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